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The Story of 439 High Street

This home was built by William Francis Chapman around 1890.  Chapman was born in Cornwall, England in 1816.  At 7 years old, he began working with his father at the local slate quarry.  Over the years, he became a highly-regarded worker and an excellent judge of slate. 

In 1832, Chapman came to America on a prospecting mission in order to find land with slate deposits.  Eventually, he came to the area now known as Chapman, PA.  Upon realizing the superior quality of the slate there, he purchased land to start a slate mine. According to local lore, the purchase price was $1 and a pint of gin. 


By 1860, the Chapman Slate Company was wildly successful and at the time of Chapman's death in 1902, the company was valued at more than $400,000.  Chapman slate was used on many important buildings including Trinity Church and Grand Central Station in New York City.  Locally, Chapman was known not just for his slate quarry but for creating the town of Chapman where the quarry employees could enjoy a high quality of life while working and raising their families. 

By 1868, Chapman owned a large home (no longer standing) on the northwest corner of Church Street and High Street in Bethlehem, PA. Around 1880-1890, he subdivided the back third of his property and built these townhomes as an investment.  Some say that he built these homes for his adult children, however, records show that they lived elsewhere.  On the 1880 census, Chapman's profession is listed as "Slate Operator."  On the 1900 census (1890 census documents were destroyed by fire), William Chapman's profession is listed as "Landlord."  It's likely that Chapman retired from the slate business and began investing in real estate.

More on William Chapman and Chapman Slate Company here.

"[William Chapman] entered the duties of life unaided by influential friends or advantageous circumstances, and was the sole architect of his own fortune, molding his own character and shaping his own destiny."   

-Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania, published 1905

910px-Chapmans_Quarries_(2674241513).jpg - Chapmans' Quarries
William Chapman - Portrait.jpg
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